Among my group of friends and colleagues, business trips are as common as ordering your next latte at Starbucks. It is given that in most work environments, you are going to get on a plane and travel…very far… and oftentimes land in a Spanish-speaking country. Just in the past year I have heard business travel stories from Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala – all wonderfully unique countries that speak Spanish as their official language.
Once you land at the airport, go through immigration and exit the airport, your senses immediately experience the new sights, sounds, and smells of entering a new part of the world. It is exciting and can be overwhelming. Herein lies an opportunity to speak Spanish!
Let’s review helpful Spanish phrases for your next viaje!
Let’s review Spanish greetings!
In English we often begin a conversation with ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ and then begin. Depending on where you live, the conversation can be rushed and to the point. Good Morning/afternoon/evening aren’t as common and are typically reserved for more formal situations or business meetings.
In Spanish, greetings are numero uno. It is very important that you greet Spanish speakers before you board the plane, begin a conversation at the ticket counter, ask for directions, or ask for help.
Buenos días. Estoy perdido/a. ¿Puede ayudarme a encontrar el área de reclamo de equipaje?/ Good Morning. I am lost. Can you help me find baggage claim?
You can also simply use Buenas, which is an informal greeting, but acceptable to use in many countries as a proper greeting in an informal situation. Review the usage rules for formal vs. informal here.
Now that you can greet others with confidence, let’s learn words that will help you navigate the airport and airplane.
Vocabulary Words for the Airport and Airplane
Useful Phrases for the Airport and Airplane
¿Dónde está la taquilla?
Where is the ticket counter?
¿Dónde recojo mis maletas?
Where is the baggage claim?
¿A qué hora viene el vuelo?
What time will the plane arrive?
¿En cuánto tiempo llegamos?
How much longer until we arrive?
¿A qué hora traen la comida?
What time will the food be served?
¿Hay problema si me levanto ahora?
Is it okay to get out of my seat now?
Asking for Directions and Exploring the City
Now you’ve landed and your eyes are wide open as you experience new sights and try to find your way to your hotel. Here are some useful phrases for asking and giving directions.
Vocabulary Words for Getting Around
Useful Phrases for Getting Around
Al final de la cuadra.
Walk to the end of the block
La tienda está en la esquina.
The stores is on the corner.
¿Dónde consigo un taxi?
Where can I get a taxi?
¿Dónde está la parada de autobús más cercana?
Where is the nearest bus stop/station?
¿Dónde está la estación de tren más cercana?
Where is the nearest train stop/station?
¿Cuánto cuesta el ticket de tren/bus?
How much does a bus/train ticket cost?
Me gustaría comprar un ticket para Juanito por favor.
I would like to buy a ticket for Juanito, please.
¿Qué tan lejos queda?
How far is it?
¿Cuánto me va a tardar?
How long will it take me?
¿Cómo llego al museo?
How do I get to the museum?
Checking in and out of the Hotel
At the hotel, you will want to use these keywords to communicate.
Vocabulary words for the Hotel
Useful Phrases for the Hotel
Perdón, no entiendo
Sorry, I don’t understand.
¿Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?
Can you please speak more slowly?
¿Cuánto me cuesta por día?
How much will that cost per day?
¿Eso tiene cobro extra?
Is there an extra charge for that?
¿Tienen más cuartos disponibles?
Do you have additional rooms available?
¿Me puede dar la llave del cuarto 105?
Can I have the key/keycard for room 105?
Me gustaría una habitación con vista.
I would like a room with a view.
Necesito que lleven mis maletas al cuarto, por favor.
I need my luggage brought to my room, please.
¿En dónde puedo estacionar mi carro?
Where should I park the car?
¿Este precio incluye desayuno?
Is breakfast included in the price?
Registraré mi salido mañana en la mañana.
I will check-out tomorrow morning.
¿Puede llamar un taxi, por favor?
Can you call a taxi, please?
Do you have any….?
I would like….
Would you like…?
Mi cuarto aún necesita ordenar, gracias.
My room still needs to be made up, thank you.
See You Later!
You’re wrapping up your trip and want to express your gratitude and thanks. Here are some phrases to help you do so!
See you later!
¡Que tenga(s) un buen día!
Have a good day!
¡Que tenga(s) un hermoso día!
Have a beautiful day!
¡Espero verte de nuevo!
I hope to see you again!
Gracias, me ayudó mucho.
You have been so helpful, thank you.
Espero regresar pronto a este hermoso lugar.
I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful place.
You’re all set!
Before you pack your bags, enjoy a complimentary class with Spanish Academy and practice your new vocabulary words!
September in Central America is as colorful as any other holiday should be. Weeks before the 15th, the streets, markets, houses, and cars become adorned with hundreds of flags. Cities are dressed in patriotic colors by their citizens. Schools start practicing for the parades and concerts, marching bands can be heard all around town getting ready for the big day when festivities will take place from Guatemala all the way down to Costa Rica. Wearing traditional outfits, eating local dishes, and going out in the streets to have fun are all commonplace practices shared across Centroamérica.
How did this holiday start? To learn this we have to go back in time, almost 200 years ago, before our independence was proclaimed.
A Brief History of Central America’s Independence
September 15, 1821 was an important day for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Through a relatively peaceful process, these nations claimed their independence from the Spanish government impulsed by the political chaos caused by Napoleon Bonaparte’s attack on Spain in the year 1808. On November 5, 1811, the first revolts occurred in El Salvador, and the rest of the countries mentioned followed suit. A meeting between colonial authorities, renown locals, and religious leaders culminated on September 15 with the termination of Spain’s dominion over the Central American isthmus (Panama was not included and had their independence a few years later). Some historians argue that Central America’s independence is often glossed over, and that the subject is much more complex in nature, so if you’re interested in the historical aspect of Central America’s independence, I encourage you to research and ask Centroamericanos to tell you their stories – most of us will gladly share what we know!
Now, almost two hundred years later, people all over Central America celebrate our independence with joy and pride on the 15th, each country having similarities as well as carrying unique flair to their celebrations. I’ve researched and talked to natives of each country to learn the different ways we commemorate our nations and share them with you so you can know what to expect if you’re visiting!
A torch across five countries
Every year, there’s a tradition in Central America where the people carry a torch from Guatemala to Costa Rica in a relay marathon, passing through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The torch is a symbol of the messengers who rode on horseback spreading the news of independence across all five nations. The ‘flame of independence’ is lit at a monument in Guatemala City called El Obelisco almost a week before independence day, reaching Costa Rica’s old capital, Cartago, on the 15th. This tradition has been done over 50 times to this day. The first time the torch traveled through the 5 countries was in 1959!
Differences between countries
In Guatemala, the torches are central to our celebration. Not only does the Central American torch leave El Obelisco 6 days before the 15th, but we also do torch runs all across the country. On the days prior to independence day, the plaza at El Obelisco is filled with marching bands, food stands, merchants, and people carrying a vibrant livelihood that is then taken all over the country in the form of torches lit by Guatemalan citizens. From small towns to groups of friends and even businesses, these torches are taken to many hometowns in celebration of our free nation. So if you have to go to work on the days before independence day, be sure to leave extra early, because the streets will be filled with groups of people running about with torches in their hands!
Some places like Petén, a lush jungle with ancient ruins in the north side of Guatemala, are far away from the city. What happens if I live in Petén? You might ask. There’s no way a group of people would be willing to run almost 500 kilometers for a torch, so many different hub spots in the country serve as lighting beacons for torches. My dad used to run with the torch back in the day with his coworkers. They would run together and finally get to their office to have lunch there. Since my dad worked in the city and making such a short a relay run between El Obelisco and his office didn’t make much sense, they traveled to Antigua, a neighboring town, and ran from there to the city.
In El Salvador, it’s not unusual for the first section of the celebratory parades to have flags from the other four countries that share the independence date, each flag with its own dedicated car. “They signify how we are all connected as one, as centroamericanos,” as my El Salvadoran friend, who lives in Guatemala, said. He tells me that “In El Salvador, we have a strong sense of identity; we get along well and have very little conflict between one another. My family makes fun of me when I visit, saying my accent has changed, but as you can hear my accent is not Guatemalan. Yet, we have a strong cultural identity and a necessity to preserve what we are.” His accent really wasn’t Guatemalan, if I’m being honest, and his insight was a good indicator of how much he appreciates his homeland.
Independence day in El Salvador starts with parades orchestrated by schools across the country as well as a military parade. They all converge at the national gymnasium, where the president greets the students and the military puts on a show with parachutes and planes flying overhead.
Honduras is very similar to El Salvador; school and military parades are planned and inaugurated with 21 cannonballs shot by the military at 6:00 a.m., signifying the start of the festivities. That’s one loud way to wake up if you ask me! Honduras also has a beauty pageant aspect to its parades, with the palillonas. These are girls dressed in fantasy military uniforms, sporting batons that they wave around, and the best ones often end up featured in the newspaper the next day.
Nicaraguans are very organized and meticulous when it comes to celebrating their independence. We all decorate our streets as soon as September starts and celebrate for three days until the 15th. Nicaraguans go a step further, and schedule events all throughout the month in order to celebrate their independence! Ceremonies begin on the first of September with an inauguration that features politicians, ambassadors, and students in tandem with the marching bands that are reminiscent of these celebrations. The following days are ceremonies dedicated to the torch that has been traveling all the way from Guatemala, which Nicaraguans pass on to Costa Rica on the 13th. The next day, there is an event held to commemorate and give medals to the best students and teachers in the country, followed by marching bands from schools, the military, and even the police! Aside from the common practices across Central America, Nicaraguans have the tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on all schools on the 15th.
Just like the torch travels through all five countries and arrives at Cartago, we finally arrive at Costa Rica, where the celebration begins with the receiving of the torch. Costa Ricans pride themselves on their pacifist beliefs, having no military forces to speak of. After 1915, the military presence in their parades started to fade away, until the abolishment of the army removed them altogether. This altered the focus of the independence day celebrations, moving it more towards the youth. The evening before the 15th, there is an event called Desfile de Faroles, or Lantern Parade, where kids from all over Costa Rica build glowing lanterns with recycled materials. They decorate the lanterns with patriotic symbols and enjoy the warm light of their artistic expression while enjoying the local food.
All these different ways to express freedom sure make me want to go follow the torch across all five countries! It’d be great to experience what is not just a celebration of our past, but a unifying act that connects us and our history. It’s very interesting to see how the differences in celebration are influenced by who we are and where we come from. The torch leaves from Guatemala, so we center our festivities around the act of lighting and carrying the torch. In Costa Rica, the celebration centers around receiving the torch.
So, in a way, Independence Day in Centroamérica is a series of parades, shows, and traditions led by a single flame traveling both in the torch and in the hearts of the citizens of Centroamérica.
You can also connect with Centroamericanos by learning to speak Spanish. We always have something nice to share, and it’s a pleasure to show other nations what we’re all about. Get a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy today!Read More
To be a global player, you need to familiarize yourself with español para los negocios (business Spanish).
Why? Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, and most Spanish-speaking countries are geographically located next to the USA. What does this mean? It is time to learn business Spanish in order to communicate -and do business with- our neighboring countries!
The Importance of Speaking Spanish and Building Rapport
Many cultures, including those from latinoamérica, rely on building relationships and trust before business dealings are discussed. Building rapport is key. This can be done through active listening, patience by spending time engaging in small-talk before ‘getting down to business,’ as well as showing real interest in your conversations.
Building rapport is also done by knowing Spanish and greeting your business associates in their native language! Don’t forget to use the proper form – formal or informal – in your greetings! Hola Ximena! Es un placer conocerle.
In the USA, small-talk can be short and sweet: “Good Morning! Did you have a nice weekend? Nice weather today, eh? Okay – Here’s what I need from you….” and the business meeting ensues. In many other countries, this would nary be a start. Lengthy amounts of time can be spent ‘feeling out’ the other parties’ intentions, temperament, motivations, non-verbal cues, etc.
The Criticality of Face-to-Face Meetings
I experienced this while working with an Indian company that was not accustomed to doing business with Americans, and it was one of my first times doing business in India. I was a ‘new’ member on the team and started ‘getting down to business’ on day one.
In order to perform an analysis, I required information to be sent via email. However, no one would send it to me. I had participated in a couple of phone meetings with my new counterparts and engaged in ‘small-talk’ with the team; nonetheless, when it came time for the company to share information with me…it was silence and avoidance. There was always an excuse that it was ‘delayed,’ or that they were ‘working on it’ – but I wasn’t receiving the data I needed.
I ended up consulting with an Indian-American colleague and discovered that the company most likely didn’t ‘trust’ me yet, and if I wanted to move forward with the project then I would have to meet them in person.
Off I went, traveling over 30 hours to have an in-person meeting with the company representatives. The meeting went well – we spent half the morning drinking tea and getting to know one another. My counterparts were ‘evaluating’ me to deem me trustworthy. Evidently, I passed the test because from that meeting forward, I received any and all information I requested without delay, hesitation, or excuses. Success!
In many cultures, it is crucial to spend time getting to know each other before the business meeting can officially start and before the business relationship can grow. Even though Southeast Asia and Latin America are two very different regions, they share this similarity (as do many other parts of the world!)
To help you facilitate your next meeting in Spanish, we have compiled a list of key business words and phrases below!
20 Key Business Words
Let’s start by learning the basics so you can speak with confidence.
Business Phrases Translated for You!
There are many common phrases used when talking about business projects, holding meetings, or striving to meet deadlines. Some of those phrases are colloquial, and you would only use them with your coworkers. Others are more formal and would be reserved for your boss or important clients.
Below are some key phrases that will apply to coworkers, bosses, and clients alike. Practice these to show your skills as a businessperson to your fellow Spanish speakers!
Practice Spanish Every Day
Knowing these top business keywords and phrases is a great start on becoming business-savvy in the Spanish workplace! To avoid language mishaps and dale con todo (put your best foot forward), it is important to practice Spanish every day!
Now You’re Ready!
The Spanish Academy offers personalized classes in real-time with real people that can adapt to your schedule. Be confident when holding your next business meeting! Practice with native Spanish-speakers today!
“Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts; it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way.”
–Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift
There is no better way to put your education into practice and improve your cultural competency than getting an internship in the real world! You can acquire heaps of knowledge in academia, but until you apply what you have learned in a work environment, you will not fully understand the ‘truths’ of the working world.
Internships prepare you for life after school in a very real way. Spanish-speaking internships serve a dual-purpose – they strengthen your language skills and develop your business skills.
Spanish-speaking internships are an important next step not only for those who seek to major or minor in Spanish but also for anyone who wants to enhance their language skills.
Working abroad will make your résumé stand out by showing that you can get outside your comfort zone and adapt to new experiences. It will also strengthen your cross-cultural communication skills and global awareness. Even if you choose to stay put in the USA you can achieve these skills since you will be working with other Spanish-speakers who will bring new perspectives and viewpoints to light.
Global and cultural awareness not only enhance your personal growth but benefit the future company you will work for after graduation! Check out this blog to learn more about how speaking Spanish will increase your competitive edge, connect you with people on a deeper level, and help you fully grasp the meaning behind what is being said in your business meetings. It is also more fun and rewarding to communicate with people in their native language.
Should You Stay in the USA or Intern Abroad?
Go abroad if you can!
Spanish immersion is simply the best option to enhance your language skills. You will be able to speak Spanish during the workday as well as ‘after hours,’ thus increasing your fluency. Moving abroad opens the door to living with a Spanish-speaking family or roommates – and it will get you out of your comfort zone of always falling back to English. Plus, it is so much fun to explore new places!
According to Rosetta Stone, the best places for English speakers to learn Spanish are:
- Ecuador – You will have access to plenty of language schools, low cost of living and the Spanish here is easier to understand than some other dialects.
- Colombia – The locals speak at a steady pace making the language easier to understand. This place is loaded with history and art, as well as good coffee.
- Argentina – Often called the ‘Europe of South America’ – known for its beautiful Spanish rhythm, good soccer team, carne, plus so much more!
- Guatemala – Home of Spanish Academy in beautiful colonial Antigua – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Sign up for Spanish classes today and ask every question under the sun about when to visit and what to see in Guatemala! Known for true natural beauty, friendly people and active traditional Mayan culture.
- Spain – ¡Ay! Go to where the language all began. This country is full of art, history, beautiful architecture and castles. Be sure to bring your handbook on vosotros!
- ¡Y más! (and more!) – There are so many amazing Spanish speaking places to travel to, it is difficult to narrow them down or choose just one!
Experience Spanish in the USA!
The USA has 41 million Spanish speakers alone! If you prefer to stay close to home, there are many options to improve your language skills. Reach out to your school’s language department to see what opportunities are out there or speak with a local Latino store to see if they require summer help with their business.
Another option is interning in a new city for the summer –seek out a location with a dense Spanish-speaking population such as California, Texas or Florida.
You will be saying this in no time! Ya me voy, compañeros, ¡hasta manana! Recuérdenme , ¿dónde está el supermercado que vende plataninas? (I’m leaving guys, see you tomorrow! Remind me, where is the supermarket that sells the plantain chips?)
Where To Start
A plethora of internship opportunities are out there – you will need to seek out those that suit your interests and school schedule. Internship programs vary in length – typically being three to 12 months – and can range from unpaid to weekly stipends to fair wages.
Here are a few options to begin your search:
- CIA offers undergraduate internships where you can use Spanish.
- Simply Hired lists numerous internships in the USA from Environmental Education to HR.
- Go Abroad for interns ranging from Personal Training, Health Coaching, Photography to Broadcasting in Spain, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador
- Spain Internship has openings available in Education, IT/Design and Engineering, Management, Business, and Tourism. They have positions where you don’t speak any Spanish, but there are more options available if you do have a better grasp of the language.
- Máximo Nivel offers amazing opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru
- Tend to alpaca herds in Peru or harvest coffee in Brazil with Latin American Internships
- Teach English as a Foreign Language. These opportunities typically pay pretty well and enable you to move abroad.
- Here is an exciting opportunity in NYC at NBC Universal Telemundo Enterprises in Spanish Language Journalism
The Importance of Networking
Applying to those big companies with complex résumé-screening processes and costly advertising campaigns means lots of competition! You may find yourself not getting the responses that you anticipated. To expedite the search process, it is important to make connections.
Reach out directly – call and write to companies you would like to work for. Many language schools have connections to local companies and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) who need someone to ‘volunteer’ or ‘intern’ at their organizations.
For example, you could reach out to an orphanage in Latin America who needs your early childhood education or speech therapy training onsite. You could even help an NGO with grant writing and put your creative writing skills to use.
Start your search today:
- This blog lists the Top 25 Must-Follow NGO’s in South America – amazing opportunities from promoting children’s rights to saving wildlife in the Amazon rainforest
- Teach soccer in a Spanish-speaking country through Coaches Across Continents
- Work at an NGO in Spain and interface with the press department, logistics, projects, legal or fundraising teams
- Doctors without Borders offers Internships in NYC. The experience here could get your foot in the door for a transition abroad to a Spanish-speaking location
- Intern in Los Angeles (where approximately 3.5 million people speak Spanish) with the American Red Cross
- Adelante Abroad lists NGO international internships in Spain, Chile, Ecuador or Mexico ranging from grassroots to more established organizations.
- Search here to intern in Education or Human Rights in Ecuador, National Park Conservation in Costa Rica or Public Education in Colombia
What Should My Résumé Include?
First of all, know the correct lingo – most other countries don’t use the word résumé; they use CV (which stands for curriculum vitae – Latin for “the course of your life”); Spain uses CV and Latin America uses CV, currículum, or currículo.
Like any job that you apply for, résumés for Spanish-speaking internships should be tailored to the job for which you are applying. Be sure to apply for the internship in the language it is posted in; for example, if the job description is in Spanish, you should apply in Spanish.
As much as we envision a human reading piles of résumés and reviewing each one carefully, this is becoming increasingly uncommon in the USA. Why? No one has time to peruse hundreds or thousands of documents and therefore, résumés are scanned by software that ‘sort and find’ relevant applications for the employer.
For example, if 500 people apply for one internship, the software will scan each one and perhaps find 10% that meet the job description criteria. The employer will most likely personally review those 50…or not.
If you want to increase your chances that your résumé gets read by a human, tailor it to fit the job. In other words, do NOT send the SAME résumé to every internship opportunity you come across – each employer (and their software) is ‘looking’ for different attributes.
List Languages On Your Résumé
Be sure to state your Spanish proficiency level – even if you are just starting out. Review this blog for the inside scoop on what employers are looking for.
In order to determine your level of fluency, obtain your CEFR level. The CEFR is the most commonly used system to rank English language skills, however, it is widely recognized worldwide to mark other language levels. To officially determine your language level, you would need to take a formal test; for Spanish it is DELE and for English it is TOEFL. In place of taking the official DELE which can be costly, you can download a sample professional exam to determine your language level.
Some companies will be happy to have you to help out in their business and put your Spanish skills to work – no matter what your level is. Others may require advanced (B2 level or more) to full fluency (at least a C1 level).
Whatever the case, you can work to begin to work towards fluency today with Spanish Academy!
Be Realistic and Open-Minded
If your language level is elementary (A1-A2) or intermediate (B1-B2), you may have to settle for lesser tasks to gain experience using Spanish. In other words, the better your Spanish, the more advanced the internship opportunities. This should not stop you, though! In the big picture, this is NOT a sacrifice but an enhancement to your cultural competence, language skills, and real-world experience. Many of us don’t exactly know what we want to do with our degree as graduation approaches – but gaining skills abroad may help you determine your next step.
Real-World Example on Landing an Internship
I have a friend, Mari, who wanted to live abroad and improve her Spanish-speaking skills. Mari got in touch with a Guatemalan language school and they helped direct her towards internship opportunities in the area. A small-scale company needed her help translating Spanish to English – and she landed an internship! The pay wasn’t significant – only a small stipend – but she figured that once she got some experience and improved her Spanish, then she could be eligible for a higher-paying opportunity.
Mari began her internship speaking beginner to intermediate Spanish and after a few months living in Guatemala, her Spanish was nearly fluent. She also discovered her true passion by interviewing people one-on-one — Counseling and Social Work. If she had balked at the meager stipend and refused to leave her comfort zone in the States to experience working in Guatemala, she may have never realized her true passion.
Live life to the fullest and have no regrets. Take advantage of these amazing opportunities!
Don’t wait to improve your Spanish-speaking skills – professionally trained teachers are waiting for you to sign up today!
You can better your Spanish, talk about your résumé/CV and share your enthusiasm for Spanish-speaking internships with a native Spanish-speaker in Guatemala.
Central America is one of the most vibrant and diverse areas in the world to visit. While you’re challenging yourself to learn more Spanish, we hope that you’re dreaming of where it can take you! Combine your love of the language with a passion for exploration and you may find yourself on one of the best vacations imaginable. To help you out, we have compiled a list of some of the top travel destinations for you to investigate and to enjoy! Buen viaje!
Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of the mainland of Belize. It has a little bit of everything to suit everyone’s taste, whether you are traveling alone, in a big group, or with family. Enjoy water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and parasailing. Then head to the jungle for hiking, zip lining, or simple nature walks. You will also find here the western hemisphere’s longest-running coral reef system that is full of underwater wildlife. Take advantage of all the natural beauty when visiting this gorgeous place!
How Safe Is It?
While traveling it is important to take safety into account and use common sense. This island is considered safe with some reported instances of theft (of passports or credit cards), burglary, and sexual harassment toward lone women. Always keep your personal items in a secure location and try not to flash expensive items while out in public.
The great majority of island dwellers speak English, but you will also hear Spanish and Creole, the local mestizo dialect. More than 80% of locals speak Spanish, so feel free to use it as you travel along!
The long, skinny island of Roatan sits atop the beautiful and ancient Mesoamerican barrier reef. Imagine soft sandy beaches, palm trees swaying with a light breeze, and crystal waters. This island has what you’re looking for, whether it be absolute luxury or simple budget travel and lodging. You will definitely want to get into the water however you can, so join a glass-bottom boat tour, rent a kayak, or charter a fishing trip! Once you’re ready to come back to land, plan a trip to the art or underwater museums, visit the iguana conservatory, go bicycling, or gather a group for mini-golf. The options for fun and entertainment are truly endless.
How Safe Is it?
While safer than mainland Honduras, we advise you to enjoy your travel experience more so on the west end of the island. Take greater precautions while visiting the east end of the island which is less developed and less populated.
Although most islanders speak English, a big group of mainland Hondurans finds their way there for work. This means that even though English is the most commonly-spoken language on this island, there are plenty of opportunities to use your Spanish. Keep in mind that the English you will hear is a unique dialect of the region and might not be what you’re expecting!
This little town in Costa Rica, often simply called “La Fortuna,” is 10 kilometers away from one of the most popular and powerful volcanoes in the country: Arenal Volcano. Until 2010, it was the most active volcano in all of Costa Rica. With more than a million visitors per year, this area provides plenty of entertainment for all types of tourists. You will find amazing spas that take advantage of the natural thermal waters from Arenal and various hot springs to enjoy. Go sightseeing at the miraculously tall waterfall, La Fortuna Catarata, that towers upward of 70 meters. For more adventure and physical activity, try horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, hiking or jump onto a canopy tour!
Is It Safe?
If you plan on traveling between towns (Monteverde to La Fortuna, for example) by bus then you will definitely need to keep an eye on your bags! If you can avoid it, try not to put them in the rack above your seat. Aside from this important detail, traveling around this area is safe if using common sense.
Most locals do not speak English and they will expect that you have brushed up on your Spanish skills before trying to communicate! Check out our Travel Spanish Guide for useful phrases you can practice on your plane ride.
Panama City shines bright as a bustling metropolitan area where international bankers and businessmen wine and dine. Luckily, it is also accessible for the budget traveler if you know where to look and you know how to negotiate taxi fare! After a day or so of cultured exploration, non-stop traffic and crazy city life, take a day trip to the beach on the Carribean or Pacific shore or watch the boats come and go through the famous Panama Canal.
Is It Safe?
In areas like this with a highly concentrated population, it is important to keep a vigilant eye. Beware of service guides who wish to give you a tour. Often they will begin the ‘tour’ without your consent and soon become aggressive when asking for payment. Keep your belongings tucked away in an inaccessible pocket or bag.
Spanish is the national language of Panama, while around 14% of inhabitants speak English. Make sure to practice asking for directions, ordering meals, and checking into hotels or other lodgings. Improve your skills even more by joining one of the various Spanish Schools offered in Panama!
Granada is a calm and relaxing place with plenty of architectural beauty. You will see attractive and colorful colonial buildings everywhere with horse-drawn carriages moving in between. Take a stroll on land or visit Lake Nicaragua and take a boat tour. For even more adventure, climb one of the nearby volcanoes or go hiking in one of the wildlife preserves.
Is It Safe?
In Granada, violent crime is extremely low, and as a traveler, you will only need to worry about pickpockets. Sometimes, due to civil unrest, Nicaragua will close its borders to travelers and so it is necessary to check on its status before planning your vacation.
Very few locals speak English,so Granada is an excellent place to challenge yourself to speak more Spanish. Bring a travel guide along with you in order to have the phrases you need at your fingertips!
In Southwestern Nicaragua, located along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, sits the colorful town of San Juan del Sur. The temperature stays at a fairly warm temperature for most of the year with a bit of cold from November to January. It has several different beaches to choose from that combine perfectly with hot weather. No wonder it is considered a hub for beach parties! Surf the waves, go swimming, sunbathe your heart out, and then go investigate the giant Jesus statue that overlooks the village.
Is It Safe?
San Juan del Sur has grown in popularity over the years, which means that there are more opportunistic types who are attempting to prey on visitors. Again, it’s a place where common sense will keep you out of trouble. Avoid being out at night on your own and keep all of your belongings in a safe spot.
San Juan del Sur is a fantastic place to build your Spanish skills through one of their tailored Spanish school options. From one-time lessons to immersion and community outreach, there is a way for everyone to learn.
Quirigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Guatemala, the heart of the Mayan civilization. This amazing archaeological site has ancient carved monuments that show Mayan mythology and important historical events. Visit one of the many museums that explain more about Mayan history and provide fun small-scale models of what the area looked like long ago.
Is It Safe?
While touring this ancient city, it is necessary to keep items of importance in a safe space. Other than possible theft, there are no other major precautions to take.
While you can get a tour guide to bring the city to life for you in English, you could just as easily ask for a tour in Spanish! Expand your vocabulary through a real-life history lesson! After you visit Quirigua, take a bus to any of these other incredible destinations in Guatemala and head over to Homeschool Spanish Academy for fun and practical Spanish lessons.
La Ruta de las Flores is called la ruta because it is just that: a route. It is a passage of blooming flowers that grow along 20 miles of five main colonial towns and coffee plantations. The best time to go in order to see the blooms is between November and February. There are plenty of other activities to explore along the way including a 7-Waterfall hike in Juyayua, ziplining in Apaneca, and going on a coffee tour in any of the other villages along the route.
Is It Safe?
Exploring this route is traditionally done by chicken bus, where you will need to exercise caution with your personal belongings. Make sure to keep them close to your body and, if possible, avoid leaving them in the rack above the seats.
You will have many chances to use your Spanish! In each of the towns along the route, you will need your skills to order food, talk to locals, find lodging, learn more about the history of the towns, and ask for directions.
Best Trip Ever
Now that you are equipped with all the best travel destinations in Central America, you can start packing. You can practice your Spanish while you explore some of the greatest spots between North and South America. Want the best Spanish learning experience before your trip? Take a class with professional, friendly teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy for an awesome head start to your travel. Enjoy the best trip of your life and maybe you’ll be able to add even more great destinations to our list!Read More
By now, you probably know a couple of words in español: hola, adiós, ¿dónde está la biblioteca? However, have you ever thought of where Spanish comes from? Did it just pop up one day in Spain, or is there more to it? Today we’re going to explore the history of Spanish because it didn’t just magically appear! Language is more of a living creature that evolves with the passage of time. People are the vehicle of language, and language is what gives us humans the ability to communicate our inner worlds in such a detailed fashion! It’s a win-win situation! Join me today as we trace back the history of Spanish language! If you want the short version, download the timeline below.
Maybe you would prefer to download the whole blog as a PDF. You can review and study it with your Spanish learner, and even test their knowledge with a quick exercise at the end!
History of Spanish and History of Spain
The history of the Spanish language is closely tied to the history of Spain. As groups of people moved through what is now recognized as the country of Spain, multiple languages came and went! Some of them left a big mark, while others barely brushed through. These migrations have always taken place – humans have constantly moved through territories and “secure borders” (like we now have) were certainly not a thing 5,000 years ago!
Let’s start with some useful vocabulary! In Spanish, there are two ways to refer to the Spanish language:
*The literal English translation of castellano is Castillian. However, the English term refers to specific varieties of Spanish only, not to the Spanish language as a whole. The Spanish castellano can refer to either the Spanish language as a whole or to specific varieties. The term comes from Castilla, the region in Spain where Spanish came to life!
History of Spanish: A Jigsaw Puzzle
When we think of Spanish – or any language – we see a whole: a language! Or maybe we think about the elements we learned when studying it: words, grammar, pronunciation, spelling. For today, we’ll think of Spanish as a historical jigsaw puzzle with interchangeable, multicultural pieces that come in various sizes. Just think about it: there was a time when the Spanish we now know didn’t exist. However, all the pieces of the puzzle were already scattered all around the world. They eventually found their way to one another, and so created a beautiful and diverse mosaic of language. Let’s read more on the history of Spanish and how this jigsaw puzzle came to be!
Putting Together the Pieces of the Puzzle
A long long time ago
5000 years ago, the ancient indigenous peoples of (now) Spain, the Iberians, spoke their own Iberian language. This language even had its own script and many of the inscriptions they wrote still survive today! This piece of the puzzle is a really tiny one as their writing system disappeared with the conquest of the Roman Empire some 2000 years ago, and very few words can be understood now. As you may have guessed, the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) owes its name to its first inhabitants, the Iberians!
3000 years ago, the Celts started to make their way south to the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. They came with their own Celtic language (also called Common Celt or Proto-Celt)! Nowadays, there are still 6 Celtic languages that evolved from that one Celtic language from a long time ago: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Some of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct, just as it happens in Guatemala with Mayan Languages. Read more about what is happening to Mayan languages here! Many words we use in Spanish are of Celtic origin, so this piece of the puzzle is a little bit bigger! Some examples are:
bruja (witch), gancho (hook), carro (car), añicos (smithereens)
The Iberians and Celts coexisted in Spain until the Celtic people changed so much because of the Iberian influence that Celtiberians came to existence. Celtiberians spoke the Celtiberian language and used the Iberian script that they borrowed from the Iberians, but they were considered Celts.
A long time ago
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all came to the Iberian Peninsula between the 15th and 4th century BCE to found colonies. While their impact on agriculture, economy, and mining was substantial, their influence on language wasn’t.
In modern Spanish, however, there are a lot of words that come from Greek! Greek didn’t really have much impact on the puzzle of Spanish when the Greeks came to Spain, but Latin and Arabic had already been greatly influenced by Greek. So the great amount of words with Greek origin in Spanish has more to do with the influence of Greek on Latin and Arabic, and less to do with a direct adoption of Greek words by the indigenous Spanish people. Some examples of Greek origin adopted through Latin are:
academia (academy), carta (letter), diamante (diamond), fósforos (matchstick)
The Romans arrived in the Iberian Peninsula some 2200 years ago. They got there because they were at war with the Carthaginians, who had already occupied a significant part of Spain. After a lot of back and forth that included three wars, known as the Punic Wars (that lasted over 100 years), the Romans finally defeated the Carthaginians. 200 years later, they conquered the whole of Spain! As such, the Iberian Peninsula became a part of the Roman Empire.
The Romans brought along their culture and language, which was Vulgar Latin (vulgar means common – Common Latin, like the Common Greek). Romans were all about individuals having rights, so they never violently forced their language on the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. They did, however, encourage them to learn the language through other more effective means: creating documents only in Latin and opening Latin schools for people to be able to learn.
The Romans occupied Spain for 700 years. In this extended period of time, Latin was greatly influenced by the languages that were spoken in the peninsula when the Romans arrived. By the first century AD, the modified version of Latin was spoken throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula!
Latin is by far the biggest – and central – piece of the puzzle! Every other piece connects around this one. Latin is the language that evolved and adapted elements from other languages to eventually become Spanish!
The Moors came to Spain in the year 711. They conquered Spain and stayed until 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus discovered America! They arrived in Spain because there were (again) some wars. They were called by some friends in Spain to help with the wars but ended up staying and occupying the territory for almost 800 years! As the Romans did before them, the Moors also brought along culture and language!
The language of the Moors was (and still is – yay to our first still living language!) Ḥassāniyyah Arabic, a dialect of Arabic. In the 781 years that the Moors occupied Spain, the modified Latin (that will soon turn into Spanish) started adopting A LOT of Arabic words. The Moors also introduced the Arabic numerals and the numbering system, and they contributed greatly to the fields of architecture, religion, agriculture, and education.
Almost 800 years of occupation are more than just brushing through. Arabic’s piece of the puzzle is rather significant when compared to the other languages we’ve talked about before Latin became THE LANGUAGE of Spain. Moors brought along with them many new things. All of them had no name in Latin because you don’t have a name for something that doesn’t exist in your world. Some examples of Arabic words that eventually made their way into Spanish are:
almohada (pillow), azúcar (sugar), ajedrez (chess) barrio (neighborhood)
Interesting fact: During the Moorish occupation, all the cultures – and religions – coexisted peacefully, and some temples were used both for Christian and Muslim services. The marriage between Christians and Muslims was also common and gave birth to a new culture: the Mozarabs. As we’ve seen multiple times, with culture comes language: the Mozarabic!
1492 and the History of Spanish
The year 1492 is a special year for Spain. Three major events occurred that greatly affected the course of history:
- The fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. Subsequent expulsion of the Moors.
- The expulsion of the Spanish Jews (Sephardic Jews) after they had lived in Spain for centuries.
- Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Fall of Granada
In 1469, Prince Ferdinand, heir to the crown of Aragón, and Queen Isabella of Castile married. Their united forces helped achieve the fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. This brought to an end the 700 years of Moorish invasion. Language: Due to the importance of their union – and the territories they had together – the dialect spoken in Castile became the official language of Spain. The name of the dialect spoken in Castile was Castillian. El dialecto de Castilla era el castellano. Thus, Classical Spanish came to life.
Expulsion of Sephardic Jews
Jews that had peacefully lived and coexisted for centuries with Muslims and Christians were forced to choose between staying in Spain and converting to Catholicism or leaving Spain, their homes, and wealth behind. Language: Many Jews chose to leave Spain and settled in the Ottoman Empire. They took with them the Spanish language, as it had been their language for centuries. Eventually, the Spanish they brought along combined with Hebrew, Turkish, Aramaic, Bulgarian, and Greek elements became Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish.
Christopher Columbus discovers America
In August 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe with three ships and accidentally discovered America while trying to find a better and faster route to Asia. The colonization of the New Continent by the Spanish Crown of Castille begins. Language: As colonization began, Spanish spread throughout North, Central, and South America. The fact that we speak Spanish in Guatemala is a direct result of that!
The Spanish in America
As we noticed before, the Spanish were not necessarily accepting of other cultures and religions. The Moors were completely expelled from Spain after the Fall of Granada. The Jews were given the option to convert into Catholicism or leave the country. What was bound to happen after the discovery of America in that same year? Take into account that the indigenous people of America didn’t share culture, language, or religion with their conquerors!
When the Spanish came to America, they put a tremendous effort into eradicating the culture, religion, and language of the indigenous people. Unlike the Romans who accepted individual freedom and didn’t impose language or religion on their conquered land, the Spanish enslaved the indigenous population and used force to impose their religion, language, and culture. This is sad news for history lovers, as many manuscripts of older civilizations were lost to the hands of the Spanish who were unaccepting of another religion and view of the world.
What happened to the Spanish language in America? Each region contributes a tiny little piece to the puzzle!!! This is the reason why Spanish all throughout America has so many diverse accents, words, structures, and sayings! How and why did this happen? Remember our Chanin blog post where we talked about Guatemala having 24 official languages? Now imagine that amplified throughout the ENTIRE CONTINENT! Each country has several cultures spread and all these different cultures have a language of their own. Each and every one of these languages influenced Spanish!
This puzzle of the Spanish language isn’t finished yet! Nor do I think that it will ever be. To me, it’s more of a never-ending puzzle that humanity will keep building piece by piece. Humans and society keep changing, and as we change, so does language!
Okay, enough of a history class for the day! Let’s come back to today and the fact that we have the best tools for you to learn Spanish! Come have FREE CLASS with us to learn more about how we can help you improve your MODERN Spanish! Be sure to download the free PDF as well to review and study at your own convenience.Read More
It’s 2019. The internet has given us so many more connections than we ever dreamed possible. News travels the globe in just minutes. We can interact with people from other countries and cultures…if we have a common language. Even though English has become the international language, knowing only English can greatly inhibit you in the global community. If you are thinking of learning a second language, check out these top 6 reasons to start with Spanish!
1. Second Most Spoken Language
You may be surprised by this – a lot of people think that Spanish isn’t that common worldwide. However, in terms of native speakers, Spanish ranks number two as the most spoken language in the world.
The first is Chinese, of course, with about 1.2 billion native speakers, or 15.6% of the world population. Spanish takes the silver with 400 million native speakers, or 5.2% of the population. In third place, we have English, at 360 million native speakers, or 4.7%.
If we count the number of non-native speakers, English, being the international language of business and commerce, comes in at a close second with almost a billion speakers. Spanish is then bumped down to number 4, with 527 million native and non-native speakers.
If you are trying to pick a language to learn to be able to communicate with a large portion of the population, it would make sense to learn either Chinese or Spanish. Spanish, however, has something that gives it a special draw.
2. Category 1 Language
This special draw comes in how easy it is to learn as a native English speaker. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has created a ranking system to show how long it would take a native English speaker to reach a proficiency level in each language.
Category 1 languages are closely related to English and take about 575-600 hours to reach proficiency. Before you say that’s a lot of time, Category 5 languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, take about 2200 hours to reach proficiency! Yeah – let’s go back to those first languages that take a quarter of the time to learn.
In this first category we see languages such as French, Italian, and – yup, you guessed it – Spanish. As someone who learned Spanish and has moved on to other languages, I can attest to this rating. The alphabet, sentence structure, and basic grammar are very similar to English. Even the vocabulary is sometimes so comparable that I get confused about whether I’m using the English or Spanish spelling. I often must stop and think about which language I’m using because a large portion of the vocabulary is either the same (like with neutral – neutral) or extremely close in spelling and pronunciation (like with direction – dirección).
When I first started learning Spanish, I was amazed by how much I actually understood – I could make out vocabulary I had never learned just because of its similarity to English.
Now, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are some difficult aspects to any language. However, if we compare some of the other world languages, Spanish starts to look a lot easier – even with that tricky subjunctive tense and all those verb conjugations.
3. Growing Number of Spanish Speakers in the US
So we’ve established that Spanish is one of the most common languages in the world and that it is fairly easy to learn. But … why should you decide to learn it over, let’s say, Dutch or Portuguese (which also fall into Category 1)?
Well, it’s close to home. The vast majority of the countries in North and South America speaks Spanish. It’s not like Spanish is spoken only in a remote country on the other side of the world. No. It is spoken in over a dozen countries that neighbor the US, and the number of speakers in the US is growing each year.
As of 2015, there were 53 million Spanish speakers in the United States alone. That’s 16.5% of the population. In 2017, Hispanics accounted for over 18% of the population, and that number is expected to increase by 1% every 5 years.
Spanish is all around us. It makes sense logically to learn Spanish as a second language so that we can communicate with 18% of our country’s population. Why spend hundreds of hours learning a foreign language you may never use when Spanish is becoming so prevalent right here in our own country?
4. Travel Options
Of course, I know that not everyone wants to stay in the States. I completely understand that – I started traveling at 16! For me, speaking at least a little bit of the native language is so important – not only to show respect but to survive in that country and be able to talk with the locals. It can be really frustrating to be in a foreign country and not be able to ask for what you need or have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Trust me. I’ve been there.
So, you may be in a similar situation, looking to learn a second language for travel purposes. I’m actually doing the same right now – I love Korean culture, so I am learning the language in hopes that I make it to South Korea someday! The downside of my language choice, however, is that only two countries speak the language – my travel options are quite limited.
However, there are over 20 countries and territories that speak Spanish worldwide – there’s even a country in Africa that speaks Spanish! Therefore, if you are itching to see the world, start learning some Spanish! It will take you to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa! Whether you are traveling for work, pleasure, or education, speaking Spanish gives you so many more choices on where to go.
5. A Whole New World
Or should I say ‘worlds.’ Since there are so many places that speak Spanish around the world, there is no one specific culture that comes with the language. If you took Spanish in school, you may have learned a bit about Mexican culture, with Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo. However, there are well over a dozen other countries and territories that speak Spanish. If you decide to take the plunge and learn this language, you will gain access to numerous cultures. Remember learning Spanish isn’t just about learning vocabulary and grammar – it’s so much more.
“A different language is a different vision of life.”– Federico Fellini
One of the most interesting things about being bilingual is how I change when I speak each language. The way I express myself, how I think about things, how I communicate – it all changes depending on the language I’m speaking. Why? Because language is so intertwined with the culture that you cannot learn one without the other. It is a beautiful experience!
Now, I live and work in Guatemala, so I learned (and am still learning) about the Guatemalan culture specifically. However, I often speak Spanish with people from other countries, which gives me the opportunity to learn about even more cultures that speak Spanish. I could learn about these countries and their cultures in a classroom at school, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Speaking the language of the country gives us so much more insight into the inner-workings of the culture. Take slang for example. There are about 20 different ways to say ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s up’ in Spanish – it all depends on the region. By learning some phrases from each country, you get a glimpse of how the people think and interact with each other, which is something a textbook could never teach you.
6. More Opportunities
Learning any language can open the door to a myriad of opportunities. The moment you say you know a language, people start to depend on you for their communication needs. This makes you that much more valuable in the workplace, especially in this era of technology where everyone – no matter what language they speak – wants to stay connected.
We are a global community, which means we need to find ways to bridge the communication gap. By speaking Spanish, you can connect with the 400 million native speakers or over 100 million people who speak Spanish as a second language. Let me tell you – it is immensely rewarding to meet someone and communicate with them in our mutual second language – Spanish. It is actually more common than you think!
The opportunities given to you by knowing a second language are endless. You can work abroad, go to school in a Spanish-speaking country, volunteer and truly connect with the community…and the list goes on and on. Learning Spanish is the perfect stepping block to building the future you want.
Alright. I’ve given you several great reasons to learn Spanish. Now go start learning! But…how, you ask? Well, there’s no search for a private tutor near you because we offer live, tailored classes online right in the comfort of your own home! Nothing beats having an experienced native Spanish speaker teach you the ins and outs of the language. Try a free trial class and start changing your future today!
Okay. Before we start today, have a look at this awesome video! After I watched the video, I tried to snap my fingers to chanin-chanin! It didn’t quite work and it made me remember how many years ago, my best friend spent a crazy amount of time trying to get me to do it “right.” Despite her efforts and 25 years of being Guatemalan, I still can’t make the snapping sound. Now the important question: were you able to do it? It’s okay if you can’t! That makes two of us! Either way, this expression and hand gesture has an important influence on Guatemalan culture.
Chanin, chanin-chanin, or the hand movement that accompanies those words, is ingrained in Guatemalan culture in an inexplicable way. Whether or not they actually say the words, everyone does this hand movement. Some people do it everywhere, others do it only in the familiarity of their homes. Some make it snap, while others just shake their hands like pom poms (and I raise my hand to this!!!). The video got me thinking that I do it a lot (and I mean a LOT) more often than I initially thought I do. It’s just one of those things that you learn at a very young age because everyone around you does it!
What is ‘chanin chanin’?
Let’s divide this in two and explore its meaning:
- Words: Saying ‘chanin’ or ‘chanin-chanin’
- Gesture: The famous finger snapping hand movement
The origin of the word chanin
Guatemala’s official language is Spanish. However, different cultural groups across the country speak another 24 officially recognized languages! Yes, that’s a lot of languages for one country! 22 out of those 24 languages are Mayan languages spoken by indigenous people.
Now, going back to chanin and Guatemalan Spanish. Because of the cultural exchange that exists between the various groups in Guatemala, Mayan languages have influenced – and still are influencing – Spanish greatly! Many words we use in Guatemalan Spanish, like chanin, originate from a Mayan language. Chanin, in particular, means apúrate, or hurry up.
To practice some Spanish reading, visit Guatemala’s official page on our linguistic heritage: Guatemala, un País con Diversidad Étnica, Cultural y Lingüística. There are also some maps for you to see where these different cultures and languages exist! You can also check out these Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala and compare the places listed here to where each Mayan language is spoken.
Origin of the chanin gesture
As for the hand movement, I’ve been asking some abuelitas, and no one really knows where it comes from. I can only assume that someone, one day, really needed to get something done. So, they started shaking their hands to communicate a sense of urgency to another person who spoke a different one of the 24 languages. Since they couldn’t understand each other with words, hand gestures had to do the job!
Imagine if you’re in the middle of something and someone starts frantically shaking their hands to signal that you should hurry up – believe me – you’ll hurry up!
The Languages of Guatemala
Languages are directly related to ethnic groups and culture. There are four different ethnic groups in Guatemala and one uses different languages:
Learn more about Guatemala’s culture and ethnic groups here!
*Information on the number of native speakers from 2002 Census.
Spanish in the context of indigenous languages in Guatemala
Although Spanish is the “main” official language of Guatemala, a big percentage of the population does not speak Spanish! But how does this happen? The Spanish arrived in Guatemala almost 500 years ago in 1524 AD and as part of their colonization, they taught the indigenous people Spanish.
While 500 years may seem like enough time for everyone to learn Spanish, Guatemala is a country divided (and united!) by different cultures and landscapes. The various groups did not always accept a new language being imposed on them (who would?). Plus, the fact that some villages are so far removed from political, economic, or cultural centers allowed for many to just keep living their life without needing to learn a new language.
This is all now changing, but we’ll talk more about Spanish in Guatemala in another blog post! In the meantime, you can read a little something on Guatemalan history here.
Something to keep in mind: The Spanish of each Spanish-speaking country is greatly influenced by the languages the indigenous populations spoke or still speak! That’s the reason why there are sometimes big differences in the words the people of different Spanish-speaking countries use.
Y ahora, and now, exploremos the other languages of Guatemala!
According to the 2002 census, 41% of the Guatemalan population identify themselves as indigenous (descendants of the Mayans). All these people speak various Mayan languages, and each one is a descendant of the language Protomaya, which came to life some 6,000 years ago! Yes, it’s been a long time! There are now 22 indigenous Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala, each spoken by a different cultural group! And yes, each one of them is a language of their own (not a *dialect!) with unique grammar, sounds, and vocabulary!
Let’s have a look at these 22 Mayan languages:
*dialect: “A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group.” Thanks, Oxford English Dictionary!
As you can see, only a very small percentage of the population speaks each of the Mayan languages! These numbers have greatly decreased in the last few years and are still rapidly declining due to multiple reasons. For one, technology is only available in certain languages. Similarly, most services and information are only accessible in Spanish. People are also moving to bigger cities for work or studies, and because of that many families consider it more important for their children to learn Spanish than an indigenous Mayan language. Parents and grandparents have struggled to live in a country where they cannot speak the official language, and they don’t want their children to have that same experience.
However, it’s important to mention that Guatemala’s government and different NGOs have started campaigns to promote Mayan language learning in schools and through any possible platform. The thing is, a language is not only a set of words we use to communicate with others. Languages carry the entire historical background of a whole culture! As such, it is important to value and cherish each Mayan language as much as we value and cherish all those beautiful colors we see when we visit a Guatemalan market!
Check out these quotes by Guatemalans to understand a little bit more about the importance of language as part of a culture: Discovering Treasures Through Spanish Quotes
Xinca is a language that doesn’t belong to the same group as the other 22 indigenous Mayan languages. Its origin is unknown, but it used to be widely spoken throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. While some sources say the language is extinct, others say there are currently only about 100 people who speak this language.
Garifuna is the only language from the Arawakan language family spoken in Central America. All other languages from this language family that are not extinct, are spoken in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Up until 1797 when the Garifuna people were deported to Honduras, the language was only spoken in some Antillean Islands. Now, a total of about 200,000 people speak this language throughout Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and the US. If you’d like to learn more about the Garifuna culture, check out this documentary film in Garifuna language (and English): Garifuna in Peril.
Language is a huge part of culture! When you learn a language, you’re not only learning to say things with other words, but you’re venturing into a new world of ideas and customs. Continue learning more about Guatemalan culture and language by scheduling a FREE CLASS with us today!Read More
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Dried flowers as carpets, fruit as carved trumpets, and colorful sawdust for everyone. It’s the half happiest season of all.”
Nope, not Christmas.
We are talking about Semana Santa, or ‘Holy Week’ in English. This is normally the time when Americans and Anglo-Saxons celebrate Easter around the world. However, as always, Latin America gives it more spice, and there’s not an Easter Egg in sight!
Setting the Scene
It is a week for the senses. This is second level to street food. Take a deep breath and smell the burning sawdust and incense you find in novelty stores that makes you feel like you are in Asia. But we aren’t, remember…only Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Semana Santa!
Feast your eyes on all the flowers, fruit, and dyed sawdust used to create elaborate street carpets feathered with green needles from pine trees.
Why the carpets you ask?
These beautiful creations are for people carrying carved wooden floats depicting scenes from the crucifixion story of Jesus. Don’t worry, we will touch more on that later (just keep in mind that it’s called a procession, or procesión).
Just to give you a taste, here is an interview from Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, we know it is in Spanish, but take it all in. ¡No te preocupes! We will review the main points of their interviews.
Before you watch the inside scoop, here is some basic Semana Santa vocabulary that should help you out:
- Los cucuruchos– people who apply to the church to carry the floats processions through the streets to express their adoration for Christ and the church.
- Cargar– to carry a float in a procession
- Las alfombras– hand made carpets made in the streets for people who are carrying floats
- La procesión – a special parade for Semana Santa
First scene: You see all of the sawdust, flowers, and pine alfombras that we were talking about! The narration presents us with Antigua Guatemala getting ready for one of the biggest procesiones of the 7-day event: La procesión de la Merced Church.
Afterward, there is a pep talk from one of the organizers talking to the first round of 80 men who will carry this GIANT, ONE THOUSAND POUND, hand-carved float from the church of La Merced along the path made of alfombras. He encourages them,
Today is your time to enjoy and take pride in carrying [the float]. Maybe with a tear in your eye, thinking about the love of God and how he has given you the strength to move forward.”
This speaks to the reason why people want to participate in Semana Santa in this way. Holy Week is about Catholic devotion and acknowledgment of Jesus’ suffering in the days leading up to his crucifixion. By carrying and participating in las procesiones, you get to show devotion on a deeper level. If you watch los cucuruchos try to pick up the float, I think we can all say that they are devoted. Go team Semana Santa!
This concept of joy and devotion found in the Catholic Semana Santa traditions spills over into the following interviews.
The first is with a living and breathing cucurucho! He talks about what an honor it is for him to have the privilege to help lead the procession out of the church. Out of all his years of participating in Semana Santa, this is the first time when he does not have to wait on another street block or at a different location to swap with the first turn of cucuruchos.
It is really exciting, especially today because of all of the devotion and love and mysticism that each cucurucho experiences when they cargan (carry).”
The father in the next interview expounds:
Being a cucurucho is considered a big privilege in Semana Santa, as the tradition is passed down through generations,”
He has been practicing the tradition of Semana Santa for 28 years in his household. He is so excited to be celebrating this year with his oldest son.
People also participate as a way to celebrate their gratitude for miracles that they have seen happen in their lives. In the interview with the woman Rosi, she explains that she especially wants to cargar this year because her father recently recovered from a long-term illness. She does it out of thankfulness, and boy are we happy for her too!
Another fun fact that one of the interviewees points out is that Semana Santa is celebrated in most Spanish-speaking countries. The young girl, Monse, says that her family is actually from Chile, but they live in Antigua. At first, she did not like the traditions of making alfombras and having to cargar, but once her grandfather explained it to her she appreciated it from a new and fresh perspective. Most countries in Central and South America celebrate Semana Santa, but they are on a smaller scale with maybe one or two big procesiones, which is nothing compared to the whole week of procesiones in Antigua.
Now we find ourselves at a spectacular scene of music! As the cucuruchos prepare to wait at their stations to carry, the sixty-man band prepares to accompany them with some tunes. This orchestra has been preparing for 6 months just for Semana Santa! It is a full band with trumpets, flutes and, of course, crashing cymbals that can be heard from blocks away as the procesión follows the alfombras from the church.
The Final Product
It is incredible to believe that the planning and execution for only one procesión include seven thousand people and the procesión lasts only for fifteen hours!! Throughout the entire week, there are twenty tree procesiones all around Antigua, but the biggest ones are the ones that start on midnight of the Thursday that leads into Good Friday. People come from all over the world just to participate; turning the forty-five thousand population of Antigua to ONE MILLION PEOPLE.
The only Semana Santa comparable to that of Antigua, Guatemala is in Spain from which Semana Santa was born and was brought over to Latin America. No no no ladies and gentlemen, not an Easter egg in sight when it comes to these Latin American traditions!
So how can you celebrate? The easiest way to participate in Semana Santa is to make an alfombra. We encourage you to go outside and get creative! Use flower petals and pine tree needles to set your base. Now, use those pumpkin carving skills you save for Holloween to the task to carve out figures from fruits and veggies to adorn your carpet in the street. If you need inspiration, check out this how-to guide from Labor of Love with LOTS of pictures! We promise lots of fun and suspicious looks from your neighbors. The point is to enjoy yourself in participating with a tradition that has been blooming since 1521!
This has been HomeSchool Spanish Academy reporting live from Antigua, Guatemala for the Semana Santa Holy Week. Please stay tuned for more fun facts and, YES, pictures galore!
Don’t forget to talk to you Spanish teacher for more information about Semana Santa. Sign up for a Free Class here!
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If you could have all of the money in the world, what would be the first logical thing to do? Well, I assume you would, of course, start with the basics. First, you would buy at least one theme park (we know it would be Disney World). Then you’d acquire the world’s supply of Cheetos! And lastly, why not build a real life Jurassic Park! And after all those purchases, you would totally be in serious need of help between all the accounting and organizational skills needed to run these places!
We cannot really say that we would be able to keep up with the accounting needs of Disney World AND Jurassic Park. We can say with full confidence though that we got your back on the organizational end of things! Well, at least when it comes to the currencies people will be paying with! I’m happy to introduce you to your new Spanish Currency Council! We organize currencies through historical journeys, and we’d love you to think of us more of like a travel agent than a tax assistant!
Do you remember the Fun with Spanish Flags blog we shared with you a few weeks ago? With the help of that post, we learned about the 21 Spanish-speaking countries that have 21 different Spanish flags and also different currencies. Did that help refresh
As your newly appointed Spanish Currency Council, our first matter of duty will be to get organized! To do that, we will need to go over the Peso, the Dollar, and the irregular, independent, and self-named currencies!
Spanish Currency Table
Before we begin, I would like to give you a present to congratulate your recent status as an amusement park owner. It doesn’t matter if it’s Disney World or Jurassic Park! Of course, the best gift your Spanish Currency Council can give you is a very cheesy youtube video! Sing along to a quick summary of what every Spanish speaking country uses as currency. If you simply cannot find the catchiness in the song, here is a list for reference:
To summarize, out of the 21 countries and territories:
- 8 countries use Pesos
- 3 countries use US dollars
- 10 use ‘irregular’ country currencies
With that in mind, let’s explore the “why and how” to this seemingly divided Spanish currencies scenario.
Types of Spanish Currency
Because the economy is always changing, and According to WorldAtlas.com, the countries that use the Peso are as follows:
Well, you are all ready to use, give, and save your Pesos, but what about something more familiar like Dollars? Do you think it will be similar? Well, let’s take a look and see.
Alright, newly made millionaire! Now that you got the basic Spanish Currency down (and hopefully remember our favorite awkward yet helpful Spanish Currency youtube song) as your Spanish Currency Council, we want to finally show you some of the ‘irregular’ Spanish currencies to finally help you master your life as a Spanish-Currency millionaire.
The remaining 10 Spanish Currencies that do not follow the Peso or Dollar usages are more like works of art then they are currencies. Remember our little chat about colonization? Well, these currencies also come from countries that were colonized. Despite that, they kept their heritage embedded in the smaller things, like the names of their currency. Interestingly enough, they are all based on national birds, indigenous groups, and even great warriors and explorers who the people remember…dearly or not. Don’t believe us? We’ll go over this brief description. For curiosity’s sake, check out these facts from our ‘associates’ at Onda Trading Facts.
Whether you are a collector of Spanish currencies, have a huge bucket list to travel to every Spanish-speaking company, or actually DO win that final round of Spanish Quotes from the game show in our last blog (which is why you are now a millionaire), understanding Spanish currency is an essential tool, with or without your Spanish Currency Council. The value of money always changes, but its history does not. Try to put a price on that!Read More